Thursday, September 11, 2008

Practice makes perfect

Hey look it's a double header today!

When I was just starting out learning an Okinawan karate style at age 16, I practiced a lot. Usually, I would practice in my room at night with the door shut, going through all the techniques I was taught, over and over. Over the next couple years afterwards, I did not practice as much. Instead of every night, I probably did it every couple nights or every few nights, and I felt guilty about it.

So one night I went to a sensei and asked, "Sensei, how often do you practice?"

"All the time." he said.

"Huh?" I asked. "All the time? How? Right now you aren't practicing, at least. You're talking to me. So that can't be true. "

He smiled at me, "Oh, but it is true. See, you need to understand something. 'Practicing' does not necessarily mean doing kicks and punches for hours on end. 'Practicing' could be doing your breathing while walking down the street, or working on your awareness and training your mind. By doing these things, you are training too."

It was an interesting revelation. What is a spiritual exercise?

Is it some kind of funky task that you hate? Is it some hugely magical undertaking every night at a precise time? Not necessarily!!

The most potent spiritual exercises are the ones you do all the time, but do not seem like exercises. They seem like normal activity.

Are you sitting in a chair right now? How's your breathing? How's your posture? What noises are there in the background? How are the moods of the people around you? What is your own emotional state? Why is it that way? What do you need to do right now despite how you feel? What are you doing instead of that?

You can run through all those things in your head at ANY time without anyone knowing you are doing it, and that is a spiritual exercise.

Not sitting down? What are you doing? Sorting mail? Then sort the mail!! Sort the mail without thinking about anything else but that mail and how you can best sort it. Enjoy the energy in the task. Enjoy the repetitive motion. Sail through the motion smoothly and easily without effort. Get better at doing it gracefully with each repetition.

Doing that is a whole lot more enjoyable than cursing your job in the mail room, no?!

Whatever you are doing is spiritual. Everything. The only difference is whether you do it with or without awareness to that fact.

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